Why Email Newsletters are So Valuable, Case Study on StartupDigestby StartupDigest on July 5, 2010
Today I read this post on Hacker News which was a follow-up to Jason Baptiste’s first post about email newsletters. In fact, it was Jason’s newsletter that inspired us to focus on email newsletters in the first place. It’s been 6 months since we started StartupDigest and I wanted to give a real first-hand account into what it’s been like to start a company around email newsletters and why email newsletters are valuable.
First, here’s a little history of StartupDigest is and why it’s valuable. If you are already a subscriber feel free to skip the question below.
What is StartupDigest?
StartupDigest is a weekly email newsletter of the best technology and entrepreneurship events in your local area. We serve 43 cities, 4 Universities, and one specialty group of SF Bay Area hackers.
Each digest is written by a local Curator, an entrepreneur and handpicks the best events to feature each week. We don’t feature every single event in each area; instead we filter through all of the available events and highlight only the best events for you. If you haven’t received a StartupDigest issue before you can check out one here. As you can see there, we like keeping things really simple and easy to read.
We chose to distribute our content via email because everyone has an email address, no matter where they are or what language they speak. As we’ve grown, we are learning first-hand that email newsletters are even more valuable than we originally thought. We will be reiterating many of John’s points here, but here is our own account of why email newsletters are so valuable:
Email Newsletters Are Opt-in and Permission Based
To get curated events content in any of the cities we cover, all you need to do is enter your email address on our homepage. All of our subscribers have opted-in to the content we provide and enjoy our email newsletter on a consistent basis.
When a person willingly (and indefinitely) opens their inbox to your content, it’s a big commitment for both sides. There’s a bond between content producer and subscriber from day one that’s much more personal than that between content producer and website visitor.
We measure the strength of this bond by the number of people & sites who have linked to our signup form (currently 8,000+ links to our homepage), the rate at which our subscribers grow (currently 1,200+ every week), the number of digests to which an individual typically subscribes (currently 4) and how new subscribers hear about us (word of mouth from existing subscribers).
Email Newsletters Empower You to Engage a Specific Target Audience
Our newsletters serve the startup ecosystem, made up of founders, hackers, VC’s, service providers, aspiring entrepreneurs, and University students. In the past, this audience has been very difficult to collect and reach consistently., making StartupDigest very interesting to any person or businesses looking for a new, direct way to engage members of the startup world. How we handle that interest is entirely up to us (we are very picky!) but having that interest makes what we do a viable business. The same can be said for any other company (Thrillist, DailyCandy, Tasting Table, HARO are great examples) that serves a target audience with trusted content delivered through a simple email newsletter.
We updated our demographics two weeks ago here, which confirmed to us the exact people we are reaching.
Email Newsletters Empower You to Serve Key Locations and Expand at Little (or No) Cost
Since everyone has an email address anywhere in the world, you can choose the locations that are most important to you and easily distribute your content to them. Localization is a great way to provide additional value to potential subscribers and provide additional social proof for the value of your business.
To date we cover all of these cities and Universities:
US: Silicon Valley, NYC, LA, Boston, Seattle, Pittsburgh, DC, New Orleans, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Columbus, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Des Moines, Philadelphia, Houston,
International: London, Paris, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Tokyo, Mumbai, Cape Town, Seoul, New Zealand, Tel Aviv, Copenhagen, Singapore, Berlin, Sydney, Shanghai, Madrid, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Lithuania, Beijing, Nürnberg, Germany, Mexico City, Middle East,
Specially: Stanford University, New York University, Columbia University, SF Bay Area Hackers
People Take Real-World Action on Emails They Receive from People They Trust
The whole point of our newsletter is to be a utility tool to make it easier for members of the startup community to meet each other in person.
If more entrepreneurs and investors get in the same room together more often, the entire startup ecosystem will benefit by creating and improving more great companies, faster. By solving the problem of high-quality technology and entrepreneurship event discovery, we are making a real difference in the amount of valuable feedback startups receive, the people they can choose from to work with, and the sheer number of startup ideas that are created and developed into real products and companies around the world.
We’re delivering all of that through email because people have shown that they are willing to take real-world action based on the emails they receive from sources they trust.
One of the ways we measure success is through our click-through rates (which average ~30%) and conversion rates on ticket sales (which average ~7%). We want to make those numbers as large as possible to make sure that the cross-pollination of people and ideas in every city around the world is as high as possible.
We believe that email is never going to go away. You can build a great business on top of email (like Thrillist, DailyCandy, etc.) and we are only one example. If you are working on an email newsletter company too, leave a comment or email me directly chris at thestartupdigest.com or @mccannatron.